Following Hollywood’s White Rabbit Into Wonderland: Curtis Clark

Curtis Clark, one of my Wonderverse collaborators that helped write the Hatter Madigan graphic novels, reflected on the early days of his career in this thoughtful blog. His charming origin story shed light on the fact that unbeknownst to me, I played a bigger role in his journey than I ever knew. We both agreed it would be perfect to share his wonderful words as inspiration for other young writers forging down the same twisty path of breaking into Hollywood & making it big.


It certainly wasn’t Wonderland. It was a bowling alley. A friggin’ bowling alley.

I worked there. One of those just moved to Hollywood jobs. I needed money. Knew nobody. Most days I would bang away on my laptop while seated at the bowling shoe desk. I was the sentry of the stinking soles. I got used to writing through pins scattering, bowling balls clacking, and shoe spray coating my fingers.

One shift, I was red-penning a printed copy of a screenplay I had written. Which, was a very, very cliché Hollywood thing to be doing. I assure you, though, I was actually working on it, not just trying to look like I was working on it. I had somehow finagled getting that script into ICM for script coverage. I was confident it was going to give me my start in the industry as an aspiring author & writer. Which, spoiler, it did not. 

A few hours into the grind, a customer walked in for his kid’s birthday party and saw me marking up my script. He took some small notice of me diligently writing, probably because I was less diligently setting up for his kid’s party. The name on the party sheet read: Frank Beddor.

I had no idea who Frank Beddor was. I didn’t know he had written the best-selling Looking Glass Wars trilogy or that he had produced There’s Something About Mary. Had I known those things, maybe I would have tried to drum up conversation. After all, that is why most people in Hollywood do cliché things like work on a script in public — for those mythological “chance” encounters. Me? I guess I was oblivious. I didn’t even google Frank’s name or anything.

So, not for one second did I imagine that the so-bad-I-can’t-go-back-and-read-it script I was working on would not be my start in the industry, but that this Frank Beddor, and his twist on Alice in Wonderland, actually would. 

When Frank finished bowling, I was still editing away. He asked me what I was working on? During my early days, imposter syndrome dictated I try and sound like a legit writer to just about everybody. So, too-cool-for-school, I filled him in on my momentous, impending script coverage. Which, almost certainly made me sound green as grass. 

Frank told me he was also a writer, but I had never heard of his books. Which wasn’t surprising because at that time I hadn’t even read Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (I have several times since). Our conversation seemed destined to peter out as pleasantry, until, serendipitously, Frank asked if I liked comic books, or had written any? What he had no way of knowing was that I had a collection of comics twice the size of the shoe wall I stood in front of.

And, at that time, I also just so happened to be writing a comic book for a guy I met playing basketball, because, you know, the Hollywood hustle sometimes works in weird ways. I showed Frank a few pages of art from that comic, and it was enough to earn his business card.

Back then, for me, a business card was a magical thing. You could feel it, put in your wallet, keep it in a drawer. They were tangible things, whereas most things in Hollywood seemed to evaporate the second you turned around. The industry can be so hard to navigate, especially early, that I took getting a business card as a sign I was at least doing something right.

Me during a "Director Moment" after I collected enough business cards

Maybe, if I collected enough of them I would, I don’t know, level up? That would have probably made more sense than how the business actually works. 

Frank told me to send him a copy of the comic I was working on when it was done. His office address was on the card. I had an address! On a business card! And a writer producer who wanted to read this comic! I would be done working at this bowling alley in no time! Spoiler again, that would not be the case.

A few weeks later, I hand delivered a copy of said comic book, hoping for another face-to-face chat to build off of. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, Frank’s office was closed that day. So, I slipped my comic under the door with a note, and assumed he’d get it. And then I heard nothing. For weeks. 

Wait, did he get it? How would I even know? Talk about driving yourself mad.

I followed up via email a few times, and didn’t get a response. That familiar early-days sinking feeling was happening, where I got excited by an opportunity, only for it to slip away as nothing materialized. I was a young, nobody writer who handed this guy crusty shoes, and he was a busy writer producer with young kids and a burgeoning brand. Could I be angry at this guy, who I had met once, for not having time for a twenty something kid whose comic he may or may not have found slid under his office door?

Um, yes. I was 100% angry Frank wasn’t getting back to me in a manner that suited my unrealistic career timeline. That said, now-a-days, I understand why someone like me, back then, wasn’t exactly his priority number one.  

After weeks of nothing, I decided to email him one last time. No BS, it was going to be my last follow up. I’m sure I rolled my eyes or jabbed the return key passive aggressively when I hit send on that email. I had run hard and fast into quite a few dead ends at that point. 

However, after months of nothing, Frank got back to me within minutes. He sent a very brief email that read something to the effect of, “I read your comic. Come to my office. I might have a job for you.” 

What?! 

After all that time waiting, he fires a job tease email off to me in mere minutes? I had already emotionally moved on, probably deflecting Frank’s lack of interest with some self-doubt managing thought about it being his loss. I was spun.

The truth was, that email meant the world to me at that time. If I haven't made it apparent enough by now, starting out in Hollywood can be a daunting, soul shattering endeavor, especially if you have no connections. And I didn’t know anyone in California when I moved here, let alone in the entertainment industry. 

That email is why I’m writing this blog post on FrankBeddor.com. I honestly do not know if I would have made it to my current place in my career, where I have representation and shop projects with production companies, agencies and the studios, had it not been for me following up that one last time, and Frank actually getting back to me.

I’d like to think I would have earned my shot sooner or later, probably after some much needed seasoning, but I don’t know if or when another opportunity with a legit Hollywood entity would’ve come my way.

So, after reading that email, I quickly bought the first book of The Looking Glass Wars and ripped through it in a day. Nervous, I went to Frank’s office for our meeting. The walls were covered with Card Soldiers and Jabberwocky concept art, poster sized prints of Alyss, Hatter Madigan, and Redd, set photos from There’s Something About Mary. The shelves were stacked with various US and UK printings of Frank’s books, and a few beautiful copies of Alice in Wonderland. As a wide-eyed baby writer, it was cool as hell, but I tried to act like it was all normal to me. 

I sat across from Frank in a comfy chair and we chatted. I said a bunch of young-dumb stuff about how I wanted to write all of his comic books. Honestly, I barely knew what I was talking about and was being super presumptuous. At least I was passionate, though, and had some ideas. Which, must have been enough to not turn Frank off because I left with a chance to write a short web comic for him.

From Script to Finished Page!

There were very few guidelines to the assignment. It had to be Hatter, on Earth, during the years he was looking for Alyss. It was basically a sink or swim opportunity, where I was supposed to pitch Frank an idea, and if he liked it, he’d hire me to write it. Except, instead, in something like two days, I wrote a very weirdly formatted short story and sent it to Frank. He liked it, whatever it was, and wanted to make it, but what was he going with this weird, sort of prosey, sort of scripty thing I gave him? I was a comic nerd. Why didn’t I send him a comic script?

Frank didn’t know this then. Actually, he might even be reading it for the first time here. I had read a zillion comic books, and I had “written” exactly one, but I had never really scripted one in an industry correct way. That sample issue he looked at? I “wrote it” by sitting side-by-side with the artist and drawing out the comic panels together.

Now, I wasn’t some full-blown charlatan who had lied my way into a job. I had read a few comic scripts and written in screenplay format. Still, when Frank said yes, but make it a comic script, I literally had to buy the Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel, skip to the scripting section, and follow it step-by-step. I needed to transform what I gave Frank into something that his artist — who by the way was Finnish, living in Finland — could correctly follow.

Keeping score at home: I had met the guy at a bowling alley, wasn’t familiar with his work, hadn’t read the material that inspired it, was fishing for bigger work before I had even earned his trust, and more-or-less didn't really know how to do the job I was lucky he hired me to do, a job I went ahead and sort of did without getting his go ahead for my idea. I never thought of myself as someone who did the “fake until you make it” stuff, but yeesh… 

However! I did my research. I figured it out. And being passionate was the most important thing (and always will be). That script, once correctly formatted as a comic, ended up being the Baseball short in the Hatter M. Seeking Wonder graphic novel. And that fun, little job blossomed into working on and off with Frank for years. His Wonderverse was so broad, that I could pull from every corner of my vast nerdom.

Together, we expanded his world through two graphic novels, many other projects, and countless conversations. And I went off and built my own career, aided by the confidence those experiences gave me. Frank and I still check in regularly and talk shop. It’s been a friendship that’s lasted over a decade.

I wrote this post because it's a fun little story, but also in hopes that if some young writer finds their way here, they can take heart in the extended meet-cute Frank and I had that helped start my career. 

It’s not some impossibly uncommon Hollywood story. Countless young writers meet their Frank Beddors. The important parts are that he and I struck up that first conversation, found a mutual passion, that I didn’t quit on the opportunity, that he then took a chance on me, and then, despite not really knowing what I was doing, that I worked, and learned, for however long it took to deliver.

The experience taught me a valuable lesson early in my career, which was not to be afraid of getting in a little (or a lot) over your head. I was lucky that first job with Frank made me embrace the unexpected and the unfamiliar in pursuit of my dreams. 

Which, how fitting is that, when you think about it? The unexpected and the unfamiliar? Aren’t those the things that cause us to wonder in the first place? 

So, always follow the glow, Wonderlanders, even if you’re not quite sure where it will lead you.

Sincerely,

Curtis Clark

About the Author:

Curtis Clark grew up the son of a farmer in Wacousta, Michigan. He spent his youth spun up in a tornado of comics, novels, film, television and games. Eventually it spit him out in Los Angeles, where he writes, directs and produces, while also wrangling his two young children, alongside his amazing wife.

A Look At Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland Through the Pool of Tears

As the Royal Scholar of Wonderland, I, Bibwit Harte am tasked with peering through the Pool of Tears to see the myriad of creations inspired by Wonderland, from Lewis Carroll's fanciful novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass first published in 1865, to the 1951 animated movie Alice in Wonderland from Disney to the very accurate 2006 New York Times best-selling series The Looking Glass Wars with Princess Alyss by Frank Beddor.

Today we will explore the influence of The Royal Millinery on other worlds. You maybe quite surprised to learn that in the less imaginative realms, hats are never imbued with Caterpillar Thread and are very rarely used as weapons. The only acts of violence ever ascribed to this mundane millinery is they are on occasion referred to as “Killer Looks.” (chortle)

In spite of their less dangerous designs, several hats in this world (and their owners) have become rather famous. Here is a little list…

The Venus of Willendorf’s Woven Cap

While there are not many official records of hats before 3,000 BC, they probably were commonplace before that. The 27,000-to-30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf figurine appears to depict a woman wearing a woven hat. Similar sculptures, first discovered in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are traditionally referred to in archaeology as "Venus figurines", due to the widely-held belief that depictions of women represented an early fertility deity, perhaps a mother goddess. Hats have been around since the time of the mastodon.

The Cap-Crown of Queen Nefertiti

Nefertiti was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the great royal wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshipped solely the sun disc, Aten, as the only god. With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of ancient Egyptian. Nefertiti favored a flat-topped version of the blue war crown (or Cap-Crown.) The famous bust of Nefertiti depicts her wearing this crown. The crown linked the queen with the goddess Tefnut, a solar deity and it looked stunning! (Note to self: I should look into getting a similar hat made for Alyss of Wonderland.)

Archibald Armstrong’s Jester’s Cap

When King James I  succeeded to the English throne, Armstrong was appointed court jester. Archibald modified the traditional “donkey eared” fool’s cap and added bells and a third floppy cone creating the now famous (or infamous) Jester’s Cap.

His influence was considerable and he was greatly courted and flattered, but his success appears to have gone to the jester’s head. He became presumptuous, insolent, and mischievous and was much disliked by the members of the court, but James favored him and as long as he pleased his audience of one, he was able to keep his head (and his hat) safely attached to his body. Certainly, if Archibald had been in the Court of Queen Redd of Wonderland, she would have said, “Off with his head!”

Marie Antoinette’s Boat Hat

Marie Antoinette  was the last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution and before she lost her head, she was known for her outlandish hats and hairstyles. In Paris, following a maritime skirmish in 1778, women of fashion commemorated what they saw as a French victory against the British with the Coiffure à la Belle Poule, an elaborate hairstyle containing a replica of the ship itself.

The Queen was not to be outdone by her courtiers, so she created the most lavish nautical fascinator of them all. Certainly, this elaborate headpiece did nothing to silence claims of her extravagance. Queen Genevieve of Wonderland (Queen of Hearts) would have never tolerated such decadent behavior! Her royal subjects were her priority.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Bicorne

French emperor Napoleon understood the importance of branding, and throughout his life used imagery and clothing to convey power and status. His most famous hat was his black-felted beaver fur bicorne. The imposing nature of this chapeau gave the Emperor some much needed stature. Traditionally, the bicorne, with its distinctive deep gutter and two pointed corners, was worn with the corners facing to the front and back, but so as to be distinct on the battlefield, Napoleon wore the hat sideways so that anyone scanning the crowds would instantly know him by his jauntily angled hat.

The conquering ways remind this author of the Wonderland’s ArchEnemy,  King Arch of Archland.

Davy Crockett’s Coon Skin Cap

Davy Crockett was a celebrated 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician. Even after he left his deep woods home to become a member of the United States House of Representatives, he still would frequently don his signature cap to remind himself (and others) of his humble beginnings.  Coonskin caps are fur hats made from the skin of a raccoon, with the animal’s tail hanging down the back.

The caps were originally worn by Native Americans, but were appropriated by 18th century frontiersmen as hunting caps. Davy Crockett, who is frequently depicted wearing a coonskin cap, seems to have had an authentic connection to them. He wore the hat during the famous Battle at the Alamo and the presence of the coon skin cap allowed his battle torn body to be identified.

Abraham Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat

Sixteenth president of the United States Abraham Lincolnwas exceedingly tall at 6 foot 4 inches, and the addition of his famous top hat accentuated his height even further. Lincoln used to keep papers and speeches tucked inside his hat and he would fish them out when needed, making his hat not just a natty bit of headgear but also a useful repository. The most famous of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats was the very one he wore on the night of his assassination at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865. Gentle readers, you may recall that Hatter Madigan once instructed President Lincoln on the art of Hat Throwing. This adventure was chronicled in the thrilling tome, Mad with Wonder.

Winston Churchill’s Homburg

British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was renowned for his hats. Churchill himself once wrote a humorous essay on the subject, remarking that as he did not have a distinctive hairstyle, spectacles, or facial hair like other famous statesmen. Cartoonists and photographers of the day focused instead on his love of headgear.

Churchill wore a number of styles of hat, from top hats to bowler hats, but he is probably most famous for his homburg. The homburg is a felt hat with a curved brim, a dent that runs from front to back, and a grosgrain ribbon that forms a band. On the subject of homburgs, we are all very familiar with the Wonderland resident, Molly Homberg. Churchill certainly would have admired her spirit!

Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox Hat

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was one of America’s greatest style icons, and one of her most memorable looks was the pillbox hat perched on the back of her head. Kennedy had many versions of the pillbox, but the most famous is the watermelon pink one she wore with matching pink Chanel-style suit on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Jackie, who had been at his side in her pink suit, was covered in her husband’s blood. When aides repeatedly suggested she change her clothes, according to biographer William Manchester Jackie refused, saying "No, let them see what they've done."

If you enjoyed my little Hat History, please return soon for more posts about all things Alyss (and Alice) in Wonderland!

Lewis Carroll, the Writer that got Alice In Wonderland Wrong

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who gained international fame as Lewis Carroll, was born in Cheshire, England in 1832, the eldest son of a conservative, middle-class Anglican Family. A shy loner with a pronounced stutter, a sufferer of migraines and seizures, he was a precocious, scholastically gifted boy, and success in school came easily to him when he chose to apply himself; the young Charles, it seemed, was prone to distraction, to reverie. Nonetheless, his talents brought him to Oxford University’s Christ Church, where, in 1855, after earning first class honors and a B.A., he was awarded a Mathematical Lectureship. In 1861, he became one of the youngest deacons in the Anglican Church.

By all accounts, Reverend Dodgson was an austere, fastidious man, a puttering, fussy bachelor inclined toward conservatism in politics, religion, and social mores. His daily routines were precisely choreographed and adhered to; he inevitably took the same routes from his rooms in Christ Church’s Tom Quad to lecture halls and back again. He made diagrams of where guests sat when they came to dine with him, noting down what they ate so that the next time these guests visited, he wouldn’t serve them the same dish again. He summarized and catalogued every letter he wrote or received.

Such a man would seem an unlikely candidate to author Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, whose enchanting nonsense has held the world under its whimsical sway for over 150 years and counting. But the history of imagination is filled with surpris­ing paradoxes, and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was the greatest paradox of all.

Respected, comfortable, with a small circle of friends, contentment yet eluded the thirty-year-old Oxford Don when, in 1856, Dean Henry Liddell arrived at Christ Church with his family. Until then, a shadow of disappointment had hung over Dodgson’s life—he couldn’t have articulated why—but it began to lift as he befriended the Liddells and their three daughters, Edith, Lorina, and Alice.

Especially Alice, the youngest child, an adoptee.

Dodgson had always been more at ease with children than with adults, but in Alyss’s presence, the constriction inside him relaxed to a greater degree; the guardrails he’d so carefully set around his daily life wobbled. He found himself again drifting into reveries, as he hadn’t done since he was a boy.

It wasn’t anything untoward that drew him to Alice Liddell. She had an ineffable quality, an intriguing coupling of wisdom and innocence in her look and manner. Oddly, Dodgson felt as if he might learn from her—he didn’t know what exactly, only that whatever it was might dissipate the mysterious pall he felt over everything he did.

One afternoon, he took the Liddell girls out for boating trip to Godstow. They stopped to rest, and while Edith and Lorina played in the shallows of the River Isis, as that particular stretch of the Thames was called, Dodgson lounged on the grass with Alice.

“Don’t you want to join your sisters?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.

Dodgson thought this a charming answer. “But why not?”

“After you’ve been a princess and had your queendom taken from you, as I have, it’s hard to get excited about a mess of fish and weeds in a river.”

Dodgson laughed. “Whatever are you talking about?”

Alice explained that her real name was Alyss Heart. She spelled it out: “A-l-y-s-s.”

Her mother was Queen Genevieve of Wonderland, she said. She and the queen and a party of courtiers had been celebrating her birthday in Heart Palace when her nasty aunt Redd, a grimacing woman with flaming red hair, attacked. It was a horrible, bloody scene, with Redd’s raging card soldiers fighting Queen Genevieve’s chessmen.

“Card soldiers?” Dodgson interrupted. “Chessmen?”

Alyss tried to describe the platoons of fifty-two soldiers who would lie in a stack before being dealt into action, then unfolded and fanned out to fight. She did her best to present him with a picture of the pawns and rooks and bishops under General Doppelgänger’s command, but what she really wanted to tell Dodgson was that she didn’t know what had happened to her mother, though she assumed the worst.

“You don’t know?” Dodgson gently pressed.

No, Alice explained, because Redd’s most fearsome henchthing, The Cat, had tried to kill her and she’d had to jump into The Pool of Tears with royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan, a graduate of the Millinery, where Wonderland’s elite security personnel trained. She had lost Hatter in the pool but was sure he would find her eventually and take her back to Wonderland.

Alice went on to tell Dodgson everything she still remembered about Wonderland: the giant mushrooms, caterpillar-oracles, tarty tarts, and looking glass travel via something called The Crystal Continuum.

“Let me see if I understand you correctly,” he said. “People can travel through looking glasses, enter through one and exit from another?”

“Yes. I’ve tried it here but none of the glasses work.”

“Tell me more about this Red Queen of yours,” Dodgson encouraged, thinking of Queen Victoria, her excesses and intimidations.

He took out pencil and paper, taking notes and sketching, as Alice went on at length about Redd—and about The Cat, and Hatter, whose top hat flattened into a weapon of spinning

blades. She described how General Doppelgänger could split into the twin figures of General Doppel and General Gänger, and each of them could then split into twins as many times as they wanted. She talked of her tutor Bibwit Harte, an albino two meters tall, with bluish-green veins pulsing visibly beneath his skin and ears a bit large for his head—ears so sensitive that he could hear someone whispering from three streets away. And, her voice dipping low in a sadness different in character from when she talked of her mother, she told Dodgson about her best friend, Dodge Anders, son of Sir Justice Anders whom the Cat had killed in front of her eyes at her birthday party.

Dodge. Dodgson.

He was the boy. The reverend was flattered, though he believed Alice’s stories to be the result of hardships endured before the Liddells had adopted her. It was likely, he supposed, that whatever had befallen Alice’s birth parents and landed her at the Charing Cross Foundling Hospital had been quite traumatic, and that she invented stories to cope with the horrors of her life. Mere stories? No, an elaborate fantasy life—harsh, to be sure, but startlingly inventive.

“You have the most amazing imagination, Alice,” he told her.

“I did,” she huffed. “It hasn’t been so powerful since I’ve been here.”

Charles Dodgson, energized and inspired to a pitch he’d never been before, didn’t realize it then, but with his pen he was going to try and bring some relief to this delightful child, this product of unknown traumas. He would transform her gruesome, violent imaginings into the ridiculous, rendering them laughable rather than things to be feared. And if, by turning Hatter Madigan into the Mad Hatter, General Doppelgänger into Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Redd’s assassin—who could morph from an ordinary kitten into a murderous humanoid with feline head and claws—into the grinning Cheshire Cat; if while Dodgson did all of this, he also managed to satirize the current state of British politics and its major actors, well, all the better.

Dodgson—let’s call him by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll— had written poems and little satirical works before, even pub­lished a few of them in journals he deemed not very special. (It’s curious to note that he’d first used the pen name Lewis Carroll the year he met Alice Liddell, for a poem he published in 1856.) Still, not Carroll’s earlier publications, not mathematical puzzles, not the beauty of logic, had fired up his imagination as much as transforming what he deemed to be Alice’s make-believe into a playful adventure novel.

He saw Alice regularly over the next several years, during which he found himself aglow with creativity. The world looked somehow brighter, more vibrant, and for the first time he thought himself to be truly happy. He had already taken up the new art form of photography (again, curiously, in the same year that he met the Liddells), but now his explorations of that medium increased until he was something of a master. He cre­ated an invention for taking notes in the dark, as well as an early iteration of a game that we know today as Scrabble. In mathe­matics, he developed new ideas in linear algebra. And when not exercising his imagination in these various ways, Carroll found time to befriend gifted artists and scholars—John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and numerous others.

With the manuscript of what he had titled Alice’s Adventures Underground at last finished, he presented it to Alice Liddell one afternoon on the banks of the River Cherwell. It was wrapped in brown paper and tied with a black ribbon. Dodgson watched anxiously as Alice untied the ribbon and carefully removed the wrapping.

“Oh!” the girl exclaimed, her mouth flat-lining in displeasure.

What sort of title was Alice’s Adventures Underground? She wanted to know. And why was her name misspelled when she had correctly spelled it out for him? And who was Lewis Carroll?

“I thought it would be more festive than saying it was by me, a stodgy old reverend,” Carroll said.

Festive? She had told him little that was festive. Alice opened the manuscript. Its dedication took the form of a poem, in which her name was again misspelled. Her gaze caught on one of the stanzas:

"The dream-child moving through a land

Of wonders, wild and new,

In friendly chat with bird or beast –

And half believed it true."

“Dream-child?” she murmured with growing concern. “Half believed?”

She turned to the first chapter. Carroll noted at once the quiver of her bottom lip, how she slumped as if she’d had the wind knocked out of her.

“I admit that I took a few liberties with your story,” he said. “Do you recognize the tutor fellow you once described to me? He’s the white rabbit character. I got the idea for him upon dis­covering that the letters of the tutor’s name could be made to spell ‘white rabbit.’ Here, let me show you.”

Carroll took a pencil and small notebook from the inside pocket of his coat, but Alice didn’t want to look.

“You mean you did this on purpose?” she asked. He had purposely twisted her memories—which, with his help, she had hoped to prove to everyone were true—into this foolish, non­sensical book?

“I . . . I thought it . . . m-m-might help you,” Carroll stammered.

Alice jumped to her feet, yelling. “No one is ever going to believe me now! You’ve ruined everything! You’re the cruelest man I’ve ever met, Mr. Dodgson, and if you had believed a single word I told you, you’d know how very cruel that is! I never want to see you! Never, never, never!”

She ran, leaving Carroll at the riverbank. Shaken, unsure of what had just happened, he picked up the manuscript, still warm from Alice’s touch, fearing that this was as close to her as he’d ever be again.

The publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland met a lukewarm reception at first, but within six years, it became a phenomenal commercial success. “Lewis Carroll” was famous, and the book’s royalties gave Dodgson the financial security to do whatever he wished. Although pleased by the public’s reception of his work, he preferred to remain at Oxford, teaching, serving tea to close friends. In short, he preferred to live modestly as a retiring bachelor.

Some of this might have had to do with depression. Alice was making good on her word never to see him again, and all friendly association with the Liddell family had ceased on June 27th, 1863. Without the enlivening spark of Alice’s presence, the pall Dodgson had known before meeting her resettled over his life. His interest in photography deserted him. He invented nothing.

He had heard through gossip that Alice resented what fame had come to her as the purported inspiration for Adventures. How it must have galled her, he supposed, that in betraying her memories with his book (as she believed), he had thrust a fame on her founded on absurd falsehoods. He gave up hope of ever spending time with her again and uncharacteristically destroyed four entire volumes of his diaries and ripped pages out of others— pages that detailed afternoons with Alice Liddell, as well as the day he broke with the whole Liddell family.

Life trudged on. Dodgson pursued his mathematical interests and wrote poetry, but the efforts felt mechanical. By 1870, after the death of his father had darkened his overall mood even further, he recognized that he needed Alice, his “dream-child” (he thought the designation a compliment), to help him—not just to live as fully in his imaginings as he’d once been able to, but also for the strength she somehow gave him to contend with a world full of grotesqueries, corruption, and petty vanities.

Dodgson never would have believed that Alice Liddell was one day going to return to him: a young woman with enlightened notions, on the cusp of marriage, who would not only forgive him for his so-called betrayal but recognize that, because of the fame his book had brought her, she had an opportunity to effect substantive societal change that wouldn’t otherwise have been available to her.

Nor would Dodgson have believed that, unexpectedly buoyed by Alice’s company, he’d again find himself writing as Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice found There, a sequel to Adventures, was published in 1871. A nonsense poem entitled The Hunting of the Snark entered the marketplace in 1876.

All of these things came to pass, reminding Dodgson that, in his best days, he had always preferred to believe in the impossible. Happily for him, another impossible thing happened: as Miss Alice Liddell recruited Charles Lutwidge Dodgson into her schemes for bettering the lives of the unfortunate, he discovered a world that even Lewis Carroll couldn’t have imagined.